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Inaugural Kelly Tough run happens next Saturday

Hundreds of runners are expected to head from the University at Buffalo’s South Campus to the Buffalo waterfront next Saturday, all because of a Hall of Fame quarterback, city police officer and brutal snowstorm.

The idea for the first Kelly Tough 12K was born out of the November storm, when Officer Dan Horan was asked by a neighbor to deliver food to an Orchard Park home where someone was ill and on a strict diet.

“He’s a good guy, so he agreed. Once he got there, he realized, ‘Oh, it’s Jim Kelly,’ ” who was recovering from chemotherapy and radiation treatments, said Kaitlin Brunner, director of special events for the Hunter’s Hope Foundation.

When Kelly learned Horan runs Eclipse Multi-Sport, which helps coordinate several local road races, he shared the idea the Kelly family had been kicking around for awhile about a run to benefit the foundation.

“When they talked about what the distance should be, Dan said, ‘10K,’ ” Brunner recounted.

“Nope, 12K,” said Kelly, who wore No. 12 with the Bills.

Fast-forward to next weekend, when the Hunter’s Hope Foundation, Eclipse Multi-Sport and the NFTA host the inaugural run, which will finish under the bridge that connects HarborCenter and First Niagara Center.

The foundation honors Kelly’s son, Hunter, who died in August 2005 at age 8 from Krabbe disease by supporting children, families and research with respect to the condition and more than 40 related genetic, progressive disorders that affect the brain, spinal cord and nervous system.

Kelly and his wife, Jill, picked next weekend for the run because their daughter, Erin, recently published a book called “Kelly Tough,” (amazon.com) and Kelly for Kids, another family foundation, will host a gala the evening afterward in Buffalo and a golf tournament June 1 in Batavia.

The run starts at 11 a.m. next Saturday near Bailey Avenue and Sherman Street and concludes with an after-party outside First Niagara Center. Registration costs $35 through Wednesday at huntershope.org and $40 after that. Register the day of the race from 9:15 to 10:45 a.m.; those looking to support the cause by running a shorter distance can put together a 12K four-person relay team ($90 registration fee). Runners can ride the Metro Rail all day for free.

– Scott Scanlon